Crossing The Brooklyn Bridge: On Being Afraid But Doing It Anyway

A few weeks ago I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Thousands cross the iconic bridge daily. It shouldn’t have been a big deal. Only it was because I have a big time fear of heights.

Heights freak me out. Actually lots of things freak me out. I’m an over-achiever in overthinking. I’m fine when things just happen, but if I have time to think about things happening, specifically what might happen, not so much.

Life is unpredictable and bad stuff happens ALL the time. Staying safe has always kind of been my thing. But much has changed over the last few years. I’m trying to do less thinking and more doing, which brings me back to crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.

In early August I attended a conference at Pier 17 in lower Manhattan. Many of the old waterfront piers, once an entry point for immigrants and a hub for shipping, have been transformed into parks with outdoor viewing areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and yes, the Brooklyn Bridge.

Even though it was steamy hot and the air as dense as bath water, I spent breaks between conference sessions outside. I’ve always been a sucker for New York. As a kid, it was my all or nothing, happily-ever-after and I never wanted much else. The city still gives me jitters but now also some ‘what ifs’ and regrets.

Pier 17 is just south of the bridge so close that you can watch as waves of people move fluidly across it. “Maybe I should cross the bridge.”

This thought was followed almost immediately by louder more intrusive thoughts listing all the reasons I shouldn’t. I might panic, get sunburned, have a heat stroke or a real stroke or actually fall off the bridge because I’m clumsy that way.

But each time I went outside and looked up at the sea of bodies flowing across the bridge, the urge grew stronger. Until the voice telling me to do it was as loud and persistent as the one telling me not to do it. What if I get half way across and turn back; I won’t. What if there’s a natural disaster or a terrorist attack; there won’t be. What if I’m afraid, sick, panicked, what if I fall – do it anyway.

Walking across Brooklyn Bridge when you have a fear of heights

The Brooklyn Bridge is over a mile long. I didn’t Google the height of the bridge or the depth of the river because truthfully I didn’t want to know. These details would have set my overthinking into overdrive – all I really needed to know was how long it would take me. The general consensus (after reading multiple websites) was about forty minutes with moderate afternoon crowds.

Forty minutes I could handle, maybe.

I skipped the last session of the conference and took the train from City Hall to High Street in Brooklyn. So preoccupied with crossing the bridge that I didn’t have time to stress out about being in a tunnel under the East River.

Climbing the stairs to the bridge felt like being underwater too long. It was not fun. But once I came up for air (aka stepped out onto the walkway), the vastness of the bridge and the moment pushed me forward. The suspended steel cables, massive towers, six lanes of traffic and the neon peaks and valleys of Manhattan in the distance. Add bikers, baby strollers, tourists with cameras, vendors selling bottled water and tchotchkes, and teens stretched over the railing wearing sunscreen (hopefully) and little else.

I started walking.

It was sweltering hot and my glasses kept sliding off my face. But otherwise I felt OK, better than OK – almost normal, totally present in the brightness of it all (even without my glasses). Perspective changes everything. Thinking about doing something is always way more scary than actually doing it.

At the center of the bridge I paused and called my husband, daughter, and wished I could call my father. I wanted to tell someone, anyone, where I was and what I was doing – to make it real, I guess. But no one answered and now I’m glad they didn’t because this experience was mine. Sometimes the most terrifying, painful and beautiful things in life we face alone and we shouldn’t need validation from others.

I kept walking. Aware only of how much I have lost because I hesitated. How many things I have wanted to try, but didn’t because I was afraid or even worse, waiting for someone else’s approval. No more hesitating. Being afraid is OK, but do it anyway.

I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge alone, but not really alone, and it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was exhilarating, radiant, and glorious and I was kind of sad when it was over.

Think less, do more. Find the things you love and also fear and do more of both. Life is not about being perfect it’s about being authentic and brave.

Overcoming my fear of heights by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

We will be back with our regularly scheduled Ruby cuteness next week.

 

29 Comments

  1. September 7, 2018 / 4:06 pm

    Oh good for you, that took a lot of courage but did it!!!

  2. September 7, 2018 / 4:06 pm

    Your post gave me goosebumps. Your last paragraph is stellar…Think less. Do more. I’ll keep that in my heart. Thanks so much for sharing your story and your journey.

  3. September 7, 2018 / 4:22 pm

    What an awesome post. You’re such an inspiration! I love that you 1) not only faced your fears and made the walk, but 2) that you wrote about it. And I love your closing as well!

  4. September 7, 2018 / 7:30 pm

    I’m so proud of you!! OMG I knew you were scared but I didn’t realize just how much! Your videos are great, I can’t believe how many people were up there – things have really changed over the years. I love the photos too. I’m glad we went to that bloggers conference together, it was so fun.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  5. The OP Pack
    September 7, 2018 / 7:55 pm

    Congratulations!!! We can tell how important it was for you to cross that bridge! We breathed right along with you through all your thoughts and are so proud of you.

    As a little aside, Mom remembers one time when they lived in Massachusetts, the family took a trip to Newport, Rhode Island. Mom’s mother was also with them. She was absolutely terrified of high bridges and bodies of any kind of water. Grandma didn’t realize how long and how high the bridge was that they had to cross until they were about a quarter of the way across. She told her son-in-law, our Dad, that she was NOT going home via that bridge so he had best figure out another way home. For some reason, Dad got lost on the trip home and has no idea how he missed the bridge but somehow they got home without another crossing:)

    Woos – Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  6. 15andmeowing
    September 7, 2018 / 9:25 pm

    Congratulations! Good job conquering your fear. I am jealous you got to go to NYC 🙂

  7. September 7, 2018 / 9:39 pm

    Congratulations that you took the bull by the horns and did it, what a wonderful accomplishment and you should be proud of yourself

  8. September 7, 2018 / 11:57 pm

    You’re an inspiration in so many ways, Kristin – but this one really hits home.

  9. September 8, 2018 / 4:48 am

    Congratulations! You conquered your fear and we are loving that smile on your face☺

  10. September 8, 2018 / 5:18 am

    I know how it is because I am terrified of heights too. I don’t even feel comfortable being in a building on the 7th floor or up and I always avoid looking out the window. But getting out of our comfort zone and acting despite our fear is the only way we can beat it 🙂 I’m so happy you decided to cross the bridge and realized it is not a big deal. Recently, I have done something that I was afraid of too. I drove 500 kilometers from my town to Budapest with a car. I was always afraid of going far from my home town with a car, especially driving in such a huge city such as Budapest. But I felt so proud for doing it and I feel more comfortable driving anywhere now.

  11. September 8, 2018 / 6:10 am

    Good for you! I know how hard that must have been. I have a fear of heights, and specifically of bridges! If something is enclosed, or I can get away from the edge, I’m OK, but that doesn’t look like an option here. What a nice place to walk though! It looks like you really made the most of that whole trip.

  12. September 8, 2018 / 7:02 am

    Kristin YAY YOU 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻🤗🤗‼️‼️‼️
    And what a beautiful albeit hot day for your Epic leap into no more what ifs!
    I too fear heights…over large bodies of water, this bridge looks very very very sturdy and the views would occupy my mind hopefully.
    Hugs Cecilia

  13. Hindy Pearson
    September 8, 2018 / 7:59 am

    Well done!! I loved your inspiring and thought provoking post. Fear prevents too many of us from not only realising our potential but even shying away from trying and enjoying the little things. Your post is a great reminder how short life really is and to get out there and live it. I hope you’re proud of yourself!

  14. September 8, 2018 / 10:53 am

    That is awesome that you were able to put your fears aside and accomplish your goal! I love your smile!

  15. September 8, 2018 / 11:51 am

    I don’t care for heights either and hubby is horrible with heights. We walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, but hubby wouldn’t love over the side. I get it. He says he feels like he’s going to be sucked over the side.

    Good for you for tackling a fear.

    Have a fabulous weekend. ♥

  16. September 8, 2018 / 8:40 pm

    That is fantastic. You did a great job.

  17. September 9, 2018 / 7:32 am

    Would you believe I have never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge? And the main office for my job is a stone’s throw away. I can go into my boss’s office and see it from her window. This makes me definitely want to do it now! I can walk across after work and then get a train home. Good for you for conquering your fear.

  18. September 9, 2018 / 12:29 pm

    You got a lot more out of that walk than just crossing the bridge. That’s so great. And now you have shared it with all of us. Congrats – And what did Ruby have to say? I bet she’s proud of you.

  19. September 9, 2018 / 3:22 pm

    Ha. I wish. I overthink everything. But as it seems, one cannot prevent bad things from happening no matter how they try. So perhaps might just stop trying and go with it.

  20. September 9, 2018 / 6:58 pm

    I’m not good with heights, or bridges. When I was a child, I had trouble crossing the basculade bridges across the Chicago River (when they were down) — in part, because I could look down and see the river. I don’t like long, narrow bridges, even when driving. I quit a job at a grain elevator before they even tried to take me to the top because standing over the grates at ground level triggered my anxieties.

    And Parker, although she likes high places, needed help to get down from the roof of the shed the first time she got up there.

  21. meowmeowmans
    September 9, 2018 / 10:36 pm

    You rock, Kristin! We love that you confronted your fear and conquered it! Glad you can now say you have walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s as awesome as you say, for sure.

  22. September 10, 2018 / 10:41 am

    Yay!!! Well done!!! I’m so glad you conquered your fear and had that experience. I’ve been over the bridge – it is a ‘must do’ when in that area. I look forward to learning about more of the new experiences you’re challenging yourself to have.

  23. September 10, 2018 / 1:00 pm

    Kristin, this is an amazing post! A native New Yorker, I loved the scenes, and can appreciate the initial hesitation. I moved before the walkway was put in, and one day, I’d love to do it. It was nice to “accompany” you on this excursion! Bravo for you! Some of your profound words are absolutely great quotes, and some I am going to somehow share with someone in my extended family who is also an overachiever at overthinking, which tends to freeze him from moving forward. I am so proud and happy and exhilarated for you! Thank you for trusting all of us with this inspiring story of strength, will, determination, and overcoming fear! So happy you enjoyed “your” special time! Hugs!

  24. September 10, 2018 / 3:40 pm

    Good for you!!!! Way more courage than I could muster, for sure.. I’d need a partner by my side to cheer me on and much cooler temps. I visited NY for the first time on my 60th birthday. My hubby got us tickets for a broadway show… my mind told me I should freak out going through the Holland Tunnel, but I just thought lovely thoughts and soon it was over. Haha! I’m glad I went, and can now put that into my list of things I have done… but I prefer the less congested more country/scenic/quiet vacation spots. I do like your way of thinking though… just do it… and stop thinking about it… the only way to conquer those fears. You go girl!!

  25. September 10, 2018 / 10:05 pm

    Congratulations on facing your fears and walking the Brooklyn bridge! I am proud of you!

  26. September 11, 2018 / 2:08 pm

    GUYZ….!!! 984 PAWS UP TWO MOM…WE THINK HERZ VEREE BRAVE N HER DID A GRATE JOB… ♥♥♥

    everee one haz feerz N that mom faced herz N toll bout it iz like…..yea, eye am gonna kick yur azz brooklyn bridge !!!!! way kewl N de mooveez iz two 🙂 ☺☺♥♥

  27. The Gang at LLB
    September 14, 2018 / 2:40 pm

    Late to the party, but wanted to add my CONGRATS to overcoming such an obstacle!! You totally rock!!

  28. September 17, 2018 / 11:09 pm

    You are an amazing women and friend! I can’t wait to share a podcast with you! It’ll mean I get to chat with you at the very least once a month!!! Congrats on this obstacle and many more to come my friend!

We love comments! Thank you!